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Sports Clubs' Financial Picture Bleak; Members Criticize Athletic Department

[This is the first of a two-part series on club athletics.]

By Richard H.P. Sia

Increasing financial burdens and a lack of support from the Department of Athletics have forced sports clubs at Harvard to face either disintegration, or embarrassment in intercollegiate sports circles.

The majority of these clubs--ranging in activities from riflery to gymnastics to water polo--struggle to pay for their own equipment, tournament fees and travel expenses.

The problem of making ends meet at the expense of excellence in sports often seems insurmountable, although on extremely rare occasions clubs receive small monetary gifts from the Athletic Department.

Recent interviews with several coaches, captains and players from among Harvard's 32 sports clubs revealed what one student called "a distressing and embarrassing situation for Harvard athletics."

"We had an extremely strong team this year, but we couldn't afford to enter the big meets at Army or Fordham," water polo captain Phil Jonckheer '74 said. "We were forced to stay in New England and play a light schedule."

The water polo club, number one in New England for several years and always ranked high in the east, would not have been eligible for the NCAA championships had it won the Easterns last fall.

NCAA rules limit the national tourney to teams with varsity status. Despite the prominence of Harvard water poloists in New England, promotion from "club" to "varsity" status here "is not a likely prospect," Jonckheer said.

He added that the team has played against other squads which have either full varsity status, such as Brown, or a paid, full-time coach, such as Yale, Northeastern and MIT.

Harvard is unwilling to make similar commitments because the Athletic Department must then assume a greater financial responsibility for the sport, Jonckheer said.

Funds for balls and headgear come from the players' pockets. Last fall the water polo team had to replace equipment that was stolen from the IAB over the summer. In October, the team had to cough up $60 to enter the MIT tourney, which it won easily.

"We've been paying a lot of money to win trophies," Jonckheer said last fall.

"It's not easy playing water polo this way," he said. "People come to Harvard because of our great swimming program and expect to see a great water polo program as well. You can be sure they're disappointed."

During the 1972-73 season, the parent of one player covered most of the team's travelling expenses. When the funds dried up last year, the team received $200 from Athletic Director Robert B. Watson's $3000 "discretionary fund."

Emergency Expenses

That fund covers all emergency expenses in the Athletic Department, Watson said last week. "It's not intended solely to finance club activities."

The department confronted a tight money situation in September when the Faculty cut the athletic budget by $25,000 from a $2.7-million appropriation. Watson said department guidelines exist that determine how much money is distributed to building maintenance, varsity sports and equipment.

As for the discretionary fund, Watson said he considers the age of the sports club, the number of participants and the importance of the clubs' games or meets before giving financial aid.

"Actually, in the over 28 years I've been with the University, the policy has always been to leave the clubs entirely on their own," he said.

Carlo Rizzo '75, former captain and coach of the gymnastics club, said recently that despite references by department heads about "rules" covering club finances, "the department really operates regardless of the rules."

He cited the 1972 resignation of coach Rich DelGallo, who had received a $500 annual salary. Rizzo took over DelGallo's duties and declined the salary to preserve his amateur status.

"After several talks with John Yovicsin (director of Recreation and Club Sport) last spring, it was mentioned, but not promised, that $500 would be spent on equipment in Hemenway gym," Rizzo said.

"Had DelGallo stayed, the department still would have allotted $500 for gymnastics. So Yovicsin gave me the impression there was an understanding and I was hopeful the money would come," he said.

"But the department took advantage of my teaching services; it spent the $500 elsewhere," Rizzo said.

Rizzo resigned as coach in January, largely because dwindling club membership made running the club a "frustrating job," he said.

Freshman Jerry Colker, who recently paid his own way to the Ivy gymnastics championships at Dartmouth, succeeded Rizzo as coach. But he is faced with the same financial problems as his predecessor.

Rizzo said that in one of his last pleas for department assistance, Yovicsin told him financial aid would come if the club showed signs of "outstanding achievement" in intercollegiate competition.

The condition resembled the law of Catch-22. The gymnastics club that needed money to build a strong intercollegiate team would not be given assistance until it demonstrated excellence in competition.

Volleyball club coach Mike Palm last week aired similar complaints about financing and said he hoped the Athletic Department would fund club activities once the club secured a winning record.

The spikers have captured second place in a 16-team East Coast Volleyball League and last week for the first time received $100 from Watson's discretionary fund. Before the gesture, the club members spent $170 for equipment, and operation costs.

John Harvey, coach of the Harvard Classics basketball club, said he knows the department is in "bad straits" but said he worries about making ends meet.

"We were completely on our own this season," Harvey said. "Luckily we borrowed an old set of Harvard uniforms and used my own basketballs."

"Since we had one home game out of 22 games this season, there were minimal referee costs. I chipped in myself for transportation for away games," he said.

The Classics replaced the JV basketball team, phased out on a "temporary" basis by the Athletic Department. Money for the JV program was transferred to the needy varsity team, Harvey said.

Next year, Harvey said he hopes to apply for outside financial aid, hopefully from HEW, since the cagers have assisted in several recreational programs.

Selling Cookies

"We might just end up selling cookies or something next year," he said.

"Our $5-a-year dues don't quite carry us through the season," table tennis captain Anders Carlsson '75 said. "Everyone inevitably chips in for gas on road trips and we spend a lot more than $5 per person."

Carlsson said the 10 regular members of the team asked the Athletic Department for funds last June and were turned down. "Further negotiations would be futile," Carlsson said. "Nothing is left to be said."

The table tennis team plays an Ivy schedule against well-financed teams like Yale and Brown. Yale pays a coach to direct the squad and Harvard pales in comparison to the expenditures by other schools.

Dan McLean '75, captain of the rifle club, said the club's $15 dues cover only the cost of ammunition. Other necessities include targets and travelling expenses.

"My biggest complaint is that there's no money to repair equipment," McLean said. "I ask the department for financial help every fall. We've been asked to submit our budget...nothing happens."

The club owns four "very worn-out" rifles, he added. Members usually bring their own weapons to practices and meets.

"I think Yovicsin is sympathetic, but he has his hands tied," McLean said. "It's hard to realize though that Cornell fields a full varsity rifle team and that Yale and Princeton have 'varsity-clubs' that get partial support from the school. Dartmouth pays for its rifle team's hotel rooms, travel and ammunition."

"The Harvard department hardly recognizes us," he said. [Tomorrow: The Athletic Department responds.]

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